“Pennsylvania” is written with a missing “n” on the Liberty Bell.

  • Liberty bell up close
Liberty bell up close
David W. Leindecker/ Shutterstock

In 1751, Pennsylvania statesman Isaac Norris placed an order to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for a large bell to be placed in the State House in Philadelphia. The bell was meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, the colony’s original constitution. Now known as the Liberty Bell, this colonial landmark remains on display in Philadelphia as a symbol of the United States’ ideals of liberty and equality. The bell is inscribed with a Bible verse extolling the virtues of liberty, as well as these words: “By Order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philada.” That’s right, Pennsylvania is spelled with a missing “n” on the Liberty Bell — but it’s not a typo. Though it looks unorthodox today, “Pensylvania” was generally accepted in the 18th century as one of several legitimate spellings for the colony’s name, along with “Pensilvania” and “Pennsilvania.” 

In fact, this same spelling of “Pensylvania” appears in the U.S. Constitution, in the section where delegates from Pennsylvania signed their names to the document. The word was written by Alexander Hamilton in that instance, but the “Pennsylvania” spelling we know now appears elsewhere in the Constitution. To this day, the word “Pensylvania” remains unaltered on both the Liberty Bell and the Constitution, forever enshrining this alternate spelling in the story of the nation’s founding.

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